Sheils puts degree first as she prepares for tour life

Madeleine Sheils graduated Nebraska with the second-lowest career scoring average in program history.

It’s dead week for Maddie Sheils, which means the ninth-semester Nebraska student has a little bit of time to scramble for her last set of finals. A level-headed Sheils made a tough call earlier this semester. She chose the written kind of final exam over the one that required 90 grueling holes of golf in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Just 13 credits stand between Sheils, a three-time NGCA Scholastic All-American for the Huskers, who won the 2011 Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational, and a degree from Nebraska. When she weighed her options at the end of the second stage of LPGA Q-School, where she finished T-53, she decided final stage fell at too critical a point in the semester to try to not only prepare for it, but travel south to compete.

“My No. 1 priority right now is to make sure I graduate,” Sheils said. “... If I thought it was absolutely necessary to go to stage three, I could have done it.”

Sheils is, fittingly, a philosophy major, and also one of the few LPGA-bound collegians you’re likely to see forego a hard-earned spot at final stage. Sheils isn’t sure she’s ready for the LPGA next year. She needs time to adjust to the travel schedule and intensity that comes with chasing a professional golf career. It’s a level-headed approach.

Plus, she wants to close out her four-year career as a student the right way.

“You only get to be in college once,” she said. “I wanted to soak it all in and leave with a good taste.”

So Sheils buckled down over her textbooks last week as the final stage went on without her. It was hard at times to concentrate, but it also was encouraing to watch good friend Kayla Mortellaro, who won 10 collegiate titles for the University of Idaho, earn her place among the top 20 on Dec. 2.

Sheils already has secured status on the Symetra Tour for next year. She can earn her LPGA card for 2014 by finishing among the top 10 on the Symetra money list next season. Upon graduation later this month, Sheils plans to move to Scottsdale, Ariz., with a group of fellow former college players and start playing professionally on the Cactus Tour until the Symetra season begins. She has spent the past semester working out with her old team trainer and practicing at Nebraska’s golf facilities, concentrating distance and consistency.

She can always fall back on her philosophy degree, which would bode well for law school, but in the meantime Sheils' heart is on the course.

“I haven’t found anything I’m as passionate about as golf.”

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